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Market Deregulation

Since 1st April 2017, England has operated a competitive retail market for water. In the previous market, your water supply was determined by location, which meant you had no choice and had to tolerate service levels and pricing. Now commercial and non-residential customers have the option to switch supplier if they are not happy with the services, cost, and terms of their current provider.

The market is operated by MOSL (Market Operator Services Ltd) and regulated by Ofwat. With around 1.2 million customers, the £2.4 billion English retail water market is one of the largest in the world and now comes with the following focus:

  • Increase customers' freedom to choose

  • Encourage tailored levels of service and improved prices

  • Drive sustainable approaches to managing water and wastewater

Open Retail Water Market

Eligible customers can choose which retailer to buy water and wastewater services from, either as a combined service or individually. It is only the customer (front end services) that changed. Water and wastewater services are received from regional water companies (referred to as Wholesalers). The Wholesalers sell services to Retailers, who, in turn offer services to non-household customers in a competitive market, by negotiating the best deal and service agreement.










Market Players


    Maintain the network and manage the physical supply of water and wastewater treatment


    Provide billing, meter reading and customer services


    English and Welsh market regulator; responsible for promoting effective competition and protecting customer interests

  • MOSL

    Deliver the core IT systems that will enable registration, customer switching and settlement between wholesalers and retailers

  • CCW

    Consumer Council for Water provide advice and represent customers on water matters and complaints

  • TPI's

    (Third Party Intermediaries) Organisations and individuals that give advice and information to help you buy water for your business


The market offers protection to customers in the following ways:

  • Customer Code of Protection – strictly regulated codes to ensure appropriate behaviours and regulatory protection where needed

  • Strict rules regarding clear contract information and protection against mis-selling

  • Guaranteed Standards of Service (GSS) - retailers must deliver service levels or pay a fee if they fail to meet them

  • Formal contract - to give legal protection

End user Benefits

  • Freedom to choose

  • Better value for money

  • Potential to negotiate lower bills and charges

  • Improved customer services

  • Reduced paperwork and administration

  • Services tailored for your organisation

  • Water efficiency advice and planning

  • Clear, easily accessed water usage data

Maximising This Opportunity

Eligible customers are able to look at all the supply options available to them including procurement through a retailer or applying for a self-supply licence. Eligibility depends on whether premises are used mainly for business, rather than domestic use and where an existing water and/or wastewater supplier is based. Securing the best deal and maximising efficiency depends on many factors such as business type, size, location and usage profile.


  • Review existing situation

    Ensure current billing and charging is correct, if not rectify it now before switching supplier. This will ensure any refunds/rebates are maximised with your existing supplier

  • Understanding your usage

    How, when and where you use water. Benchmark your portfolio, validate current position and address excessive consumption

  • Determine business goals

    Whether cost reduction, consolidated billing or improved water efficiency, prioritise business goals with key stakeholders

  • Review supply options

    Assess which option best meets your goals, i.e. procurement for retailer supply or self-supply

  • Procurement or application

    Having decided on a preferred route, begin the process of tendering or applying

  • Continual monitoring

    Either review of your new deal or switching for the first time. Customers can switch anytime (depending on contract) and without reason

  • Nothing!

    Regardless of what you're being told, every business can benefit from the retail water market

Waterscan is here to help

Working as an independent partner on behalf of commercial and non-household water customers, Waterscan supports organisations to ‘make water work’ in the best possible way for their individual situation. Dependent on what is the best solution, Waterscan will deliver visibility, achieve efficiency and build resilience through either of the services below:

Self-Supply – directly procuring water from Wholesalers
Managed Supply – similar to Self-Supply, but procuring water through Retailers
Disclosure and Stewardship
Retailing – where necessary to assist organisations meet their sustainability goals

To discover what is the best route for your business, please contact us on info@waterscan.com to discuss an insights analysis of your property portfolio and water data.

Opt Out of Interim Supply Arrangements

As water and wastewater services are essential utilities, protections are in place in the event that a retailer makes a makes a disorderly exit from the market so that the supply points of affected customers’ premises are allocated to an alternative retailer without undue delay.

The Interim Supply Code (ISC) sets out the interim supply arrangements where a retailer is no longer able to provide services to its customers. Where this happens, customers do not need to take any action as OFWAT will transfer their water and wastewater services to an alternative retailer. During this time, customers will not notice any change to their supply as their water services will continue as before.

Got a question regarding the retail water market?
To discover what is the best route for your business, please contact us on info@waterscan.com to discuss an insights analysis of your property portfolio and water data.

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